Eastside Chef Takes on Ballard, Giving Northwest Ingredients a Global Twist

Gather Kitchen + Bar is now open in The Commons at Ballard building.
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The polenta with wild mushrooms is a standout at Ballard’s Gather Kitchen + Bar.

Gather Kitchen + Bar, a new venture from chef Ryan Donaldson (also the chef and owner of Stone House in Redmond), opened this month in the freshly finished Commons at Ballard building near Ballard Commons Park. Being a Ballardite, I was excited to check out the intriguing food and drink. Here are three impressions of the visit.

The Drinks
Rotating regularly, the short cocktail menu was mostly classics with slight twists during our visit. The Amatal Old Fashioned, for example, had both Reposado tequila and mezcal, along with Angostura bitters and a fig syrup. It was surprisingly light, a little smoky, a little sweet, with a savory fig finish.

Their take on a martini, the Stay Classy Seattle, is available with gin or vodka, and while I am a strong advocate of gin in this situation, I actually went the other direction here, as they were featuring locally made Capitol vodka, lovely Italian Del Professore vermouth and three house olives marinated with orange zest, chili and rosemary. There’s a small selection of beer on draft, too, and a tight and well-curated (by beverage director Talia Bolden) wine list with an inclusive array of local and international wines—don’t miss the Kalfu Pinot Noir Chilean red, lush and full of dried berry flavors.

 

The Food
Chef Donaldson has put together a menu spotlighting Pacific Northwest ingredients, but influenced by his travels through Portugal, Spain and other locales (the choices will rotate like the drinks). Be sure to keep an eye on the changing cheese board, as the organic Gouda accompanied by a peach jam was delectable.

The Anson Mills polenta was my favorite food of the night—a polenta triangle boasting a crispy outer layer and soft interior, topped with a sunny-side up egg, roasted wild mushrooms and a rich, earthy mushroom and red wine demi-glace. For carnivores, we hear the slow roasted pork belly with piperade, clams and sherry, and the crispy chicken thighs with Ethiopian Berbere spices are staff favorites. But when just dropping by the bar for a drink and a snack, don’t miss the fried cauliflower with blue cheese mousse and tangy house pickles. It’ll make an exquisite bar snack.

The Space
While I love a dim lounge atmosphere, once in a while it’s nice to easily read the menu. The refreshingly well-lit Gather manages to feel bustling, modern and a bit rustic all at once. The reclaimed wood topping many of the tables and elsewhere throughout the restaurant aided the rustic vibes. The chicken wire within glass on a few small privacy panels on some booths is a neat touch, too. There are big windows facing 22nd Avenue, white subway tiles on pillars and the back wall, schoolhouse lights hanging off the tall, exposed pipe ceiling and a showstopper octopus mural—maybe 15 feet wide—on one wall behind part of the open kitchen.

Gather seats 62, ranging from tables and booths to a dozen or so metal stools around a wood-topped bar, which had a number of outlets built in the side in case patrons need to quickly charge up. Gather’s planning a small patio area, too, once the sun starts shining on a regular basis. 

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